14 months post op of L5/SI discectomy and womthing new going on.

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Here's the scoop...


-       44 year old male, active - walking, hiking.

-       11/13/15 had a L5/S1 discectomy on right side to remove large and small fragment which broke off disc and was crushing sciatic nerve. (This was a ton of fun as it happened while on a business trip in India!!!)

-       No pain when lying down or reclined sitting but extreme pain when walking (needed to use crutches) before the surgery.

-       Surgery was a success and fragments were removed and disc cleaned up.

-       Still have mild annular tear in L4/L5 with mild central disc bulge.


I have had extreme low back tightness and deep ache for 10 years. Prior to surgery I had a herniation in the L5/S1 right side which would put mild pressure on sciatic nerve and the only time I had upper butt sciatic pain was when sitting. Never had pain radiating down leg. I wear a low back brace to help with the upper butt pain now after surgery and also before the surgery.

Once disc blew apart I had pain all the way down to pinky toe and a feeling of stepping on a large object in my shoe. I say “it feels like I’m standing on a golf ball”. Doctor said two things: A: The pain in the small of my back will not go away after the surgery since it is a disc fragment we are dealing with. B: You will have nerve pain for up to 18 months as it takes that long for the nerve to heal and you had severe compression of the nerve for two weeks prior to surgery.

Here we are 14 months post-surgery and I still have nerve pain though it is not at all debilitating. I still feel like I’m walking on a golf ball ONLY when I wear shoes, not when barefoot (or just barely feel it then). Now a new thing is happening. I am getting strong leg cramps in my calf and lower hamstring muscles when I stretch in bed in the mornings or when I am laying down sometimes. Also tightness of calf and behind knee. Very odd, not sure what to think about this.

I did have an MRI w/ and w/out contrast five months after surgery and everything looks good as far as the surgery went. I went to a McKenzie based physical therapist and as expected all the stretches are backwards, i.e. no bending over, only “scorpion stile” stretches. My low back muscles are so tight that this causes them to mildly spasm and then be in pain. Ironically the muscles are not “tight” in the sense that I can touch my toes with knees locked. At this point I don’t care and stretch only forward as it is the only thing that offers some relief.


Does anyone have any ideas as to the following:

-       What the heck is going on!

-       Why the cramping now?

-       Ideas for relieving upper butt sciatic pain which has been there for years.

-       How to get relief from low back pain. Walking and hiking helps but then I’m a little tight afterwards. Standing still KILLS my low back, sitting hurts, lying down feels good.



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5 Replies

  • Posted

    Hey mike.

    What a journey! I have had somewhat a similar experience to you. I'm 22 and had a discetomy on my L5S1 about 16months ago. I'm still in a lot of pain and I get those cramps in the calf like you do! They suck! I can't give an explanation as to why it happens but I thought you'd like to know that others who have a similar issue to you have this problem too.

    I have found yoga very very good for my pain (especially the cramps). If I don't do it every morning then the pain is too much but it gives great relief. Also I don't know what meds you're on but I started these new ones about two weeks ago and I have nearly no pain during the day! They're combination therapy with tramadol and paracetamol. It's called zaldiar. If you haven't tried it then i highly recommend it. I've been on tramadol for months but it has given me little pain relief compaired to this combo.

    Good luck mike, I hope I have shed some light for you. Know that you aren't along on this journey and that this problem is actually a lot more common than people realise.


    • Posted

      Hi Tilly,

      Thanks for sharing and yes it does help to know this isn't out of the ordinary. Have thought about Yoga. Not a fan of taking pills and pain level isn't t a point I can jsuttify it. When it's really bad I'll take a Tramadol or a muscle relxer but this is like 1 pill every 3 months. Paractemol is simply Tylenol (acetaminophen) most likely in a large dose. Save yourself some money and get generic Tylenol smile

      In terms of nerve pain I had huge success with Gabapentin before the surgery. It's the only thing that worked and it's because it works in the brain. Pain killers do nothing for nerve pain, I found this out lying in an ER in India smile

  • Posted

    Five years ago, I had SEVERE sciatic pain on one side.  Pain shots, meds, PT...no joy.  MRI with neurosurgeon indicated something wrong around L4/L5 but he couldn't be sure what it was.  Went in and found a bone spur "crushing" (his word) my sciatic nerve root.  Shaved off the spur and a bit off of a calcified disk and voila...I was good as new in three days.  Yes, a bit of residual pain for a little while since the nerve was inflammed. Some anti-inflammatories short term plus Voltaren Gel (the second best topical A-I on the planet).  No rehab...good as new very quickly.

    Seems my story is opposite to what your spine guy has told you.  I'd visit a new spine guy...

    PS: Recovering from a total knee replacement right now and 9 months into it, I started getting severe pain from my back, through hips and glutes and down BOTH legs.  Not sciatica...MRI showed STENOSIS from L1 through L5, most severe at L2/L3.  Surgery in February.  These ops are called laminectomies; I expect a full recovery in a very short time just like before.  Payback for 45 years of playing hockey...doc says my spine was like a junkyard when he fused L3 through S1 two years ago.  Just add the artificial hip and knee to the 4 1/2 pounds of metal in me right now.  I'm the TSA's worst nightmare at an airport!!!

    • Posted

      Holy cow... a year older than me and you are half bionic... lol.

      You really seem to be the exception. More often than not the surgery seems to remove the immediate issue but does little to address the ongiong.

      Thanks for the tip on stenosis aa that may be my wife's problem. Will an x-ray show that?

    • Posted

      Need an MRI to see this...  It's the narrowing of the canals (intervertebral foramina) that contain nerve roots as they exit the spinal column.  When they constrict the nerves running through them in any way, you get all sorts of pain depending on which vertebrae/nerve roots are involved and whether the left, right or both sides of the spine are compromised.

      Bionic?  I think they're turning me into a Terminator.  Arnold would be proud...


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